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KINGSTON – Jamaica recorded a one per cent decrease in its food import bill for 2010, which stood at US$661 million, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said.

This figure, he said, was seven per cent lower than 2008, and is an indication that the country is moving in the right direction in terms “depending more on what we produce.”

The Agriculture Minister was addressing the launch of the ‘Eat Jamaican Campaign’ on Tuesday March 1 at the Coronation Market, downtown Kingston.

But, even with the gains, Dr. Tufton said that with the increase in world food prices, and projections for costs to go up even further, more needs to be done to encourage Jamaicans to eat more local produce and enhance agricultural production to safeguard the country’s food security.

He said information from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), indicates that global food prices have increased by 30 per cent over the past 12 months, while factors relative to the environment, weather patterns, population increases, and economic adjustments, have caused a shift in world food and so Jamaica’s accessibility to supplies from other countries is not as readily available as previously obtained.

“Countries are becoming increasingly aware of the need to secure their own food supplies in the interest of their own local population as a first imperative. Increasingly, it is becoming important for us to identify with developing a strategy to (position) our primary producers,…our farmers and our…processors, who are involved in the post-harvest management of our foods, in a sustainable way, in the interest of our consumers and (the) entire country,” he argued.

He said further that Jamaicans have become too dependent on others to produce what they consume, and there is a perception that imported foods are better than local produce.

“We reject that notion. We want, therefore to focus, as part of a holistic approach, on the need to help our consumers appreciate the value…of supporting and consuming local foods. Hence this campaign: ‘Eat Jamaican’ – ‘Eat what you grow; grow what you eat’,” he stated.

Dr. Tufton contended that the creation of a sustainable agricultural sector will serve to not only promote local consumption, but enhance the economic development of the island’s approximately 200,000 farmers, their families, and communities.

“The more we produce local, the more we consume local, the more we export more of what we produce, is the more we are going to become less dependent on the need to…demand foreign exchange to support the needs that we have as a country, and as a consuming public,” he reasoned.

The Eat Jamaican Campaign is a $17.2 million joint initiative involving the FAO, European Union (EU) and the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry, which aims to promote the consumption of locally-produced foods, by increasing production and productivity to enhance food security.

The campaign, which will be implemented across the island over three months, will utilise a multi-faceted media approach, to incorporate, inter alia, a series of road shows, radio and television commercials and advertisements, and recipe and cooking competitions and displays.

 

By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter